MORGANTOWN -- West Virginia University 's long history of undergraduate students earning the nation's premier award in math, science and engineering continues. This year three WVU students, the most in any one year since 1994, have been awarded Goldwater Scholarships.
The 2006 winners – Kerri Phillips of Weirton , Rebecca McCauley of Westover and Eli Owens of Fairmont – bring the total number of WVU students who have been named Goldwater Scholars to 29 since 1989, the first year of the award. Among land-grant universities, WVU is one of the leaders in having students named Goldwater Scholars year after year, scholarship officials said.
"This is truly a remarkable accomplishment for these students as well as West Virginia University," said WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. "Having WVU students earn the Goldwater award 17 straight years, including three this year alone, speaks to the high caliber of students attending WVU and the quality of education being offered here. We congratulate Rebecca, Eli and Kerri on earning this prestigious honor."
The scholarship, named after former long-time Sen. Barry M. Goldwater, is handed out annually to outstanding sophomores and juniors studying math, science and engineering at U.S. colleges and universities. It covers the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to $7,500. The award is for the 2006-07 academic year. There were 323 scholarships awarded this year.
Phillips was at work in her research lab when she learned she had won the scholarship.
"I screamed ... I was shocked," she said.
Majoring in mechanical and aerospace engineering, Philips plans on earning a doctorate in aerospace engineering. She also wants to research unmanned flight systems, either within a government lab or as a university professor.
Her current research is with the WVU microgravity team. The team is working on a hydraulic jump experiment to be flown with the NASA Reduced Gravity Program aboard its C-9 aircraft. Members are researching jet impingements and the behavior of the jump phenomena in zero gravity. Not only did she design and build the test apparatus, she will be one of four members flying on the airplane conducting the experiment in microgravity.
Phillips is the recipient of the West Virginia NASA Space Grant and WVU Presidential scholarships. She is chairperson of the Lucky Pups Rescue Volunteers and serves as president of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. She is also a member of the Sigma Gamma Tau Aerospace honorary, Society of Women Engineers and National Society of Collegiate Scholars.
For McCauley, a junior majoring in biology and chemistry, her love of science was reinforced in the lab of Jonathan Cumming, chair of the WVU Department of Biology.
Her ultimate goal is to work in a research facility on the development of space biology and terraforming techniques in the pursuit of expanding the frontiers of mankind. She hopes to become an astronaut and travel on a manned mission to Mars but plans to earn a doctorate in astrobiology first.
McCauley has a 4.0 grade point average and is a member of the American Chemical Society, Astronomy Club, Honors College and Association of Women in Science. She is head tutor at the Chemistry Learning Center and a 2004-05 NASA West Virginia Space Grant Scholar.
Owens, a junior physics major, plans to get his doctorate and teach at the university level, sharing his love for physics and extending the bounds of science.
"I'm really excited to get this scholarship," Owens said.
Owens has conducted research under Martina Bachlechner, an assistant professor in the WVU computational materials physics lab. Using computer simulations, materials are stretched so researchers can learn how they break.
All three students will be recognized during WVU's Weekend of Honors Convocation at 7 p.m. Friday, April 21, in the Mountainlair Ballrooms. The event honors the outstanding achievements of students, faculty, staff and alumni.